After a frenetic nine days, L.A. Beer Week 2014 ended on Sunday, and after speaking to the brewers, barkeepers, and beer fans attending the events, I’d say it was a successful showcase of the rising tide of craft beer in Los Angeles.
Here are a few highlights and takeaways from the celebrations:
L.A. Brewers Guild Festival in Chinatown
Taking the place of the festival that had closed out L.A. Beer Week in years past, the kickoff celebration in the Chinatown central plaza was a success, and it set the tone for the week of beer-focused events and showcases. The festival featured all of the member breweries from the nascent guild as well as a couple dozen guest breweries from Orange County, San Diego and a few farther-flung regions; live music; and several informational panels on topics such as the history of brewing in Los Angeles and food and beer pairings. The only real criticism of the event that I heard was regarding the lengthy wait for the bathrooms toward the end of the festival. Not bad for the L.A. Brewer’s Guild first major event.
More than tap-takeovers and beer dinners
There was a wider variety of events during the weeklong celebration of craft beer culture than before. From cask-ale festivals to musically focused events such as Eagle Rock’s Battle of the Bands or Brewer’s Karaoke, Beer Week gave craft fans in Los Angeles a variety of ways to meet the people behind the pints. There were educational panels for hopeful brewery owners, several beer- and food-focused events, and the Battle of the Guilds at Mohawk Bend that pitted suds brewed in San Diego and San Francisco against hometown beers. (The Los Angeles Brewers Guild won the popular vote, while the attendees also voted the Pupil from San Diego’s Societe Brewing as the best beer of the evening.)
So much new beer
While there was no organized push for local breweries to create new brews for Beer Week this year, there were still many new beers hitting taps and bottle shops for the celebration. Some highlights were Vulcanizer, the hoppy collaboration between Beachwood Brewing and Drakes Brewing; Longevity, Eagle Rock Brewing’s team-up with the Maltose Falcons to commemorate the homebrewing club’s 40th anniversary; Arrivant, another new farmhouse ale from Monkish Brewing; Maitai Hop Tonic, a coconut-infused India Pale Ale from Smog City; and El Segundo Brewing’s potent Power Plant triple IPA. And that’s just a small sample of all the new brews and special one-offs made to keep our mugs full during the celebration.
More changes in store for next year
Now that L.A. Beer Week is under the purview of the Brewers Guild, expect further changes to the format next year. One of the biggest challenges that the organizers will need to address is a possible scheduling conflict with 2015’s Great American Beer Festival. The Denver-based industry competition is the biggest event for craft breweries in the country, and next year’s festival is scheduled for Sept. 24-26 -- what would be the closing weekend of L.A. Beer Week. The organizers of Beer Week have also told me that the late-September schedule is also difficult as many local venues have exhausted marketing funds during the busy summer months. Expect a change in dates for Beer Week 2015 -- possibly to earlier in the summer.